Bulova is a corporation making watches and clocks. It has its headquarters in Woodside, Queens, New York City.
Bulova was founded and incorporated as the J. Bulova Company in 1875 by Joseph Bulova (1851–1936), an immigrant from Bohemia. It was reincorporated under the name Bulova Watch Company in 1923, and became part of the Loews Corporation in 1979.
Bulova established its operations in Woodside, New York and Flushing, New York, where it made innovations in watchmaking, and developed a number of watchmaking tools. Its horological innovations included the Accutron watch which used resonating tuning forks as a means of regulating the time keeping function.
Bulova paid $4 for the world’s first television commercial, a July 1, 1941 placement on New York station WNBT before a baseball game between the Brooklyn Dodgers and Philadelphia Phillies.
The Joseph Bulova School of Watchmaking was founded in 1945 by Arde Bulova, Chairman of the Board, initially to provide training for disabled veterans after the Second World War.
Bulova’s “Accutron” watches, first sold in October 1960, use a 360 hertz tuning fork to drive a mechanical gear train to turn the hands. The inventor, Max Hetzel, was born in Basel, Switzerland, and joined the Bulova Watch Company of Bienne, Switzerland, in 1948. The tuning fork was powered by a one-transistor electronic oscillator circuit, so the Accutron qualifies as the first “electronic watch”. More than 4 million were sold until production stopped in 1977.
In the 1960s, the company was involved in a notable space age rivalry with Omega Watches to be selected as the ‘first watch on the moon’. Ultimately, the Omega Speedmaster Professional chronograph wristwatch (known as the “Moon watch”) was designated by NASA for use by the astronauts in all manned space missions, becoming the first watch on the moon on the wrist of Edwin ‘Buzz’ Aldrin.
However, all instrument panel clocks and time-keeping mechanisms in the spacecraft on those missions were Bulova Accutrons with tuning fork movements , because at the time, NASA did not know how well a mechanical movement would work in low gravity conditions. The Bulova company currently manufactures a limited edition “Astronaut” model under its Accutron line of watches. The back of the watch case is autographed by Buzz Aldrin. The tuning fork movement has been discontinued by Bulova, and the current Astronaut model features automatic ETA SA movement, making it similar to the rival Omega.
In 2008 a Bulova Automatic wristwatch, lost overboard by a sailor in 1941, was found after 67 years on the seabed and returned to its owner. It still works today.